Get Fiery with Blaze: A Card Game with Russian Roots | Casual Game Revolution

Get Fiery with Blaze: A Card Game with Russian Roots


Based on a classic Russian card game, a round of Blaze is played in two phases. During the first, players try to optimize their hands and during the second, they race to get rid of all their cards.

Published by HeidelBÄR Games, Blaze is a 20-minute card game for 3-5 players, ages 10 and up.


The deck consists of three suits, with cards numbered 1-9 in each suit. There are also two firebird cards in the deck.

At the start of the game, the deck is shuffled and each player is dealt five cards. The rest of the deck is divided into two roughly equal stacks. One is placed in the center of the table to be the first round's draw deck, and the second is set aside for the second round. Next, a card is drawn from the deck and placed underneath, but still visible so that all players can still see what card it is. Whatever its suit, that will be the trump suit this round.

The feather cards for the round are also placed in the center of the table. There is always one feather card fewer than there are players, and they are worth a range of points — with the top one always being worth the most and going down in descending order.

Blaze is played in two rounds and each round has two phases. During the first phase, on your turn you have to challenge the player on your left. To challenge a player, you place any card from your hand face-up in front of them. You may play additional cards as part of the challenge so long as they all have the same value.

The challenged player may then play a card to reject each challenge card. To reject a card, he must play one that is of the same suit or of a higher value, or any card of the trump suit.

The active player may continue to extend the challenge after cards have been rejected, and he may play any cards with values already played. So, if the reacting player uses a card of a higher value, this opens up the challenging player’s options of what cards he can use. The player on the left of the challenged player can also assist the challenger and add cards to the challenge, following the same rules as the challenger.

At any time, the challenged player may choose to pass and stop rejecting cards. However, the challenger and the helping player may continue to add cards to the challenge after he has passed. There can never be more than 5 challenge cards in play. Firebirds count as a 10 when played by the challenger and as a 0 when played as a rejection card.

If the challenged player passes, he automatically loses the challenge (as well as his upcoming turn). He then takes all the cards played into his hand. If the challenged player successfully rejected all the cards, then all cards played are placed into a discard pile and set aside. All players involved in the challenge finish by drawing back up to a hand size of five cards. It is now the next player’s turn.

This continues until the draw deck is depleted. Players then make bets on who they believe will be the last player to still have cards during the second phase of the round, by playing a number one betting card face-down in front of another player. If a player believes it will be himself, he secretly plays a number zero betting card instead.

During the second phase, players continue taking similar turns with challenges and rejections. New cards are no longer drawn at the end of the challenge, and if a challenged player has fewer than five cards in hand, his hand count is the new limit of how many challenge cards can be played against him.

The goal of the second phase is to play all your cards. Once you have no more cards, you draw the top card of the feather deck and may no longer be challenged. After all players but one have no more cards, the round ends. Players reveal any betting cards played on them. Any zeros are automatically returned to their players. For any ones played on them (indicating the betting player thought that person would be the last player in the round) if the bet was correct it goes into the betting player’s score pile, and if it was incorrect it goes into the pile of the player bet on. These cards are worth one point each at the end.

Round two is played in the same way. Players are dealt their initial starting hands from the cards used during the first round, but the remainder of those cards are then returned to the box. The cards set aside at the start of the game are used for the draw deck for the second round. The feather cards used during the second round are also worth slightly more points than those in the first round. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Blaze Components


Blaze is based on a classic Russian card game named Durak. We were not familiar with Durak going into this, so the gameplay here was quite new to us. Expecting a more familiar trick-taker, it took a while to understand the gameplay and strategy involved. The first phase is very much about trying to position your hand so that you can go into the second phase with a hand that will allow you to burn through cards quickly.

Sometimes it’s worth bowing out of a challenge early in the interest of collecting certain cards or keeping hold of something. There can also be a memory element to the game as players try to track what cards someone has already taken into their hands. This is especially true during the second phase, as players try to figure out which cards to lead with or which ones to use for rejecting.

Being forced to skip a turn when you pass on a challenge is pretty dissatisfying, especially if you play at the higher player counts where you have to sit around and wait as other players take turns. It makes sense that the game doesn’t want a player just immediately using the cards he just collected to start a new challenge, especially given that the player you’d be challenging would be the one who just had the option to assist in the previous one, but skipping a turn is always a frustrating mechanic.

Aesthetically, it’s an absolutely gorgeous game. The artwork, card design, and card material are all beautifully done, colorful, and ornate. An insert in the box would have been a nice touch for keeping the cards tidy, but that’s the only flaw in the production.

Blaze can take a little while to become familiar with and understand how it works, which isn’t necessarily what you’d expect from a light, 20-minute card game. If you’re not familiar with the game that is its inspiration, it feels quite original and unique. We enjoyed our time with it and are intrigued to see how our strategies and techniques develop as we spend more time with it.

Pros: Feels very different from other tricking-taking card games, interplay between the two phases, beautiful aesthetics

Cons: Skipping a turn is always frustrating, takes a few plays to really understand

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.